Rated R. Running time: 2 hours 6 min.
Our content advisories (1-10): Violence 5; Language 1; Sex/Nudity 1.
Our star rating (1-5): 5
The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands,nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth
As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.
From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way.So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation;that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
2 Corinthians 5:16-20
Final Solution, shot on location in South Africa, is the true story of how the life of a white Afrikaner, well on his way to becoming a paramilitary assassin, was turned around by a woman and two books. Gerrit Wolfaardt (Jan Ellis) is the grandson of a Boer executed by the British at the beginning of the 20th century for his guerrilla warfare against British rule in South Africa. The boy grows up nurtured by tales of his grandfather’s martyrdom, the racist teachings of family and church, and his admiration for Hitler’s Mein Kampf, a well-marked copy of which the youth studies during his high school years. It inspires Gerrit to organize his own version of Hitler Youth and to dream of his own “Final Solution” for South Africa. Until then he enjoys going around with fellow punks singling out and beating up any hapless black Africans they encounter.
Gerrit attends a university where he studies law. He continues his racist associations and continues attacking isolated blacks. More organized now, he shares with a rogue police officer and a politician his own version of the Final Solution that will rid S.A. of all blacks and Jews. Then, on his college campus, he is drawn to Celeste (Liezel van der Merwe), a liberal young woman who challenges him to read the book her literature class is studying, Alan Paton’s Cry, the Beloved Country. Gerrit rejects the notion, calling it “Commie rubbish.” She gives it to him anyway, and then tricks him into accompanying herself and a friend on a visit to a black church whose pastor is dedicated to racial reconciliation.
Garret ponders two books that present very opposing views of humanity.
Outside the church Gerrit refuses to shake hands with the pastor Peter Lekota (John Kani), but the latter unsettles him—first by refusing to be put off by Gerrit’s insulting manner, and then by quoting a line from the Bible, “God has made of one blood all nations.” When Gerrit parrots what he’s been taught, that the Bible says that blacks have no souls, and thus could not go to heaven, the pastor challenges him to show him the passage. He can’t, of course, and this leads the boy to the university library where even with a concordance, he cannot find his passage, but does discover several others that conflict with what he has been taught about the Bible. .
The above, and many other incidents, are all told in flashbacks by an older Gerrit and his wife. They are at the church meeting (where the Peter Lekota still serves) when a white terrorist rushes into the church just ahead of a vigilante group of blacks wanting to kill him. Still with burnt cork on his face, the white is the lone survivor of a band of white terrorists who had roared through the black township spraying bullets into the bodies of people standing and sitting outside their shacks. The white extremists had not realized that a group of black guerilla fighters were on hand, the latter grabbing their guns and blasting the car and causing it to crash,, so that only two attackers survived–one whom the mob seized and set afire with a tire pinning down his arms, and the other, who, after watching in horror his comrade die, has fled to the church.
Pastor Lekota refuses to turn over the terrorist, but does agree to allow the angry mob to enter the church, if they will leave their weapons outside. It is then that the pastor asks Gerrit to tell his story so that the mob will see that not all whites are hopelessly evil, but can change. There are surprises ahead in the story, similar to those encountered in a Dickens’ novel, and Gerrit does not get to finish his story, so filled with hostility are his skeptical listeners.
I loved the way that the script worked in one of my favorite novels, and how it shows that the Bible can be twisted and also used to get at truth. The characters are not cardboard cutouts, but fallible human beings seeking justice and vengeance–and eventually, reconciliation. Indeed, the last part of the film calls to mind the great scene of reconciliation that climaxes Alan Paton’s novel—and which leaders such as Nelson Mandela and Bishop Tutu have embraced as the best policy for healing their society.
This is a film not to be missed by peacemakers and lovers of Alan Paton’s great novel Cry, the Beloved Country.
The movie currently is not for sale on DVD via Amazon. However, you can buy the DVD from its producer at Messenger Films or watch it on Vimeo. The review is from the March 2003 issue of VP.
NOTE: My Westminster/John Knox book FAITH & FILM: A Guidebook for Leaders contains a 9-page discussion guide (23 questions) for this film. Available via firstname.lastname@example.org.